The European Union mission's diplomatic status in the US was silently downgraded from member state to international organization sometime during 2018, something that came to light only recently, Deutsche Welle reported, citing an anonymous EU official. According to the official, Washington "conveniently forgot to notify" Brussels of the move.
It's unclear when the decision was implemented, but the mission noticed the first signs when its ambassador, David O'Sullivan, remained uninvited to a series of events in 2018. It became completely obvious, according to the source, when he was named last at the funeral of former US President George H.W. Bush in December, which didn't correspond to his earlier diplomatic status.
According to anonymous Brussels officials, cited by DW, the ambassador's diplomatic rank has since been reinstated. But when the EU addressed the Department of State for clarification, they were surprised to hear that the department "forgot to notify" the bloc, one source said. The same source added that the move to downscale the mission's diplomatic status had "obvious political motive".
President Donald Trump is a known critic of the European Union and has previously urged its member states to defend their national sovereignty. He also called the bloc an American "foe" in terms of trade and slammed European countries for their low defence spending.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also levelled criticism at the EU in 2018, questioning whether bureaucrats in Brussels had "ensured the interests" of the bloc's states and their citizens.